DemDaily: Houston Mayoral Upended

March 29, 2023

The dynamics of the Houston mayoral race were just upended with the entry of 14-term Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee into an already crowded field.

On Sunday, Jackson Lee became the 12th candidate to vie for successor to term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), and enters the contest as an immediate frontrunner.

Jackson Lee, who served as an at-large Houston City Council member before being elected to Congress in 1994, has been reelected each term by no less than 70% of the vote. Her 18th congressional district encompasses inner-city Houston and the surrounding area, accounting for nearly a third of the mayoral electorate.

"Dean of the Senate" John Whitmire, the longest-serving member of Texas' upper chamber, is considered Jackson Lee's most formidable competitior. First elected to the north Houston-based seat in 1983, he previously served in the State House for ten years and is the brother-in-law of former mayor Kathy Whitmire, who served in the late1980s.

Other announced candidates include former at-large Houston City Council member and 2020 US Senate candidate Amanda Edwards, City Council Member Robert Gallegos, former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, former Houston Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia, Attorney Lee Kaplan, Missouri City Police Officer Robin Williams, and four other candidates.

In solidly blue Houston, all of the prominent candidates identify as Democrats.

Although Houston's mayoral election is run on a nonpartisan ballot, the city's politics have been dominated by Democrats since 1982. The country's most racially and ethnically diverse major metropolitan city, Houston's constituency is 44% Hispanic, 23.7% White, 22.1% Black, and 7.1% Asian and Pacific Islander.

While Texas' other top populated cities, including Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Garland and Irving, will all hold their general elections May 6, 2023, Houston opted to hold their general election November 7.

Jackson must overcome a fundraising disadvantage, however, with just $301,375 cash on hand from her 2022 congressional reelection campaign compared to Whitmire, who has raised $1.3 million for his mayoral campaign and is sitting on another $10 million in his State Senate account.

Hollins reported a $1.6 million fundraising haul for 2022, with Edwards and Kaplan each reporting $1.3 million raised. At the end of 2022, Williams reported $188,995 in contributions, while Gallegos reported $133,500 cash on hand. Garcia has not yet announced fundraising figures since his March 10 announcement to run.

Although the filing deadline is not until August 21, the field is likely a complete one. Absent a GOP contender, it ensures that, regardless of the outcome, Democrats will continue to maintain control of the nation's fourth-largest city.

Should Jackson Lee prevail, it opens the heavily Democratic 18th District to a special congressional election. If unsuccessful in her mayoral bid, however, Jackson Lee can still run for reelection to Congress in 2024.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: HoustonPublicMedia, WalletHub, ABC13, Houston Chroncicle, City of Houston, Texas Secretary of State

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